In the medical setting, patient referrals from other physicians are a low-hanging fruit when it comes to qualified leads. In theory, these are individuals who have been pre-screened (to an extent) to receive advanced, specialized care. These are individuals who have most likely received initial information about how the advanced care will benefit their medical situation.
Because this is an “easy” way to boost your lead generation, it is in your best interest to nurture your relationships with physicians outside your practice so you become the trusted resource for referrals. Every referral counts, especially when it has been estimated that 33-50% of patients do not follow-up with the specialist to whom they were referred.
There are three main ways to boost your referral generation: simplify, communicate and educate.
If you are still using the old methods of fax or emails to receive patient referrals, it’s time to upgrade your process. Adding a secure, HIPAA-compliant and easy-to-use physician referral system to your website not only makes it easier for other practices to send their patients to you, it can also make the process more accurate. Adopting an online form can require referring practices to include all of the pertinent information you will need to provide the right level of care. This can minimize the time-consuming task of back-and-forth calling (not to mention playing phone tag) to gather comprehensive information. In addition, typed information on a form will be much easier to decipher than handwritten notes.
With all of this patient information flowing into your practice every day, your staff will be able to focus on scheduling appointments much quicker. From the patient’s standpoint, it’s better to schedule an appointment within days, not weeks, after their initial appointment – while the information is still fresh in their minds.
In short, online referral systems make the referral process simpler and more effective.
Two-way communication is vital to the success of your referral program. That is often easier said than done. While your staff is being pulled in dozens of directions throughout the day, making time to connect with referring providers can easily get pushed to the back burner (again phone tag is often an insurmountable challenge). When there is no emergency situation to report, when you simply want to update a provider on the status of their patient, this may seem like a piece of busy work. In reality, the more you can share with the provider, the more they will feel like a real part of your team, an extension of your practice.
This communication aspect also applies to the patients themselves. As stated earlier, 33-50% of patients do not follow-up with specialists. Adopting an online referral system in which the doctors provide contact information will allow your practice to take a proactive step with these patients. You will have the ability to reach out to these patients in a timely manner to arrange for the initial office visit. It will show unity between the two practices and present a seamless flow to the patients.
In short, online referral systems make it easier to communicate with other doctors and with patients.
It may seem odd to say that education is important in growing referral networks with other doctors. However, this is absolutely true! They cannot refer what they do not know. Taking time to invest in promotional materials and projects that outline exactly what types of services you provide (in terms that other doctors will appreciate) will allow you to cast your net to a wider audience. You can do this through:
- Printed brochures delivered to their offices
- Electronic newsletters delivered to their emails
- Flyers to promote special offers for their patients
- Continuing Education (CE) events at your office
- Special emails announcing new team members or new technologies
You may also decide to hire a referral liaison that will be specifically tasked with starting, maintaining and nurturing referral provider relationships.
In short, be a source of education for referring providers.
Referral Network Help is Available
These 3 tips may all sound well and good, but who has the time to implement them, right? If your office is too swamped to make this a priority, help is available. There are specific ophthalmology marketing firms, for example, that have extensive experience in helping ophthalmology practices boost their OD referral generation. (Yes, patient referral processes fall under a marketing task.)
The Administrative Advantage MSO® is a Management Services Organization owned by Advantage Healthcare Consulting, a division of Advantage Administration. We have taken time to identify these organizations and have added them to our group for members to easily access – and order services at greatly reduced rates. Ophthalmology marketing is only one small piece of the MSO pie: members can enjoy savings on virtually any type of service or product they need to operate their practice on a daily basis as well as plan for the future.
To learn more about how Advantage Healthcare Consulting, a division of Advantage Administration, can help your ophthalmology practice grow, contact us today.